Welcome back to Trembling with Fear and thank you to everyone who continues to submit and contribute to this part of Horror Tree. Time seems to be rushing by this year and I’ve suddenly realised Edge-Lit is only a week away. It’s a one-day gathering for readers and writers of horror, fantasy, sci-fi and crime with panels, workshops, readings and launches. This year I’m looking forward to listening to the sessions featuring Tim Lebbon, Sarah Lotz and Neil Spring. I don’t tend to go to these things for workshops, I like to just switch off and listen. You learn a lot and it always puts your own writing journey in perspective. It’s also a chance to meet up with people in real life, which I hope to do. My long-suffering husband, Geraint, is coming along with me as it gives him a glimpse into this strange world I now inhabit and also perhaps meet those people I speak to online. He’s not been scared off yet!
Before we go to this week’s stories, I’d like to share Hailey Piper’s latest publication news, she has a story Aggressive Mimicry in Black Rainbow, an of LGBTQIA horror, now available for pre-order.
June’s edition of The Sirens Call magazine features many writers familiar to TWF’s pages and Michael D. Davis, who features in our drabbles this week, actually has a couple of pieces published there as well. Other writers are Martin P. Fuller, Alyson Faye, Patrick J Wynn and David Berger – plus a story from yours truly.
And as a by-the-by, I’ve just noticed Clarkesworld have advertised for an interviewer (paid) so if that grabs you, check it out here http://neil-clarke.com/looking-for-interviewers-for-clarkesworld-magazine/.
Finally, a special shout out to Andrea Allison who has had her first big sale! Her story “The Jar” which was accepted by The NoSleep Podcast and was included in their Suddenly Shocking Vol 10 episode last month!
Now to Trembling with Fear which this week, starts kicks off this week with Scrambling for Justice by Haley Hwang. Checking back on my notes for this one, I found I’d written ‘bizarrely entertaining’ and I still stand by that. The innocence of those much-loved nursery characters have been subverted, they have been exposed as guilty of adult crimes – blackmail, murder and an illicit affair – and the return of Humpty Dumpty is staged in a particularly bloody way. This was a refreshing change to the usual tropes and settings we receive.
Accident by RJ Meldrum delivers hope but then snatches it away from the survivor at the last minute. Love that phrase, ‘meat is meat’, brutal.
Axman’s Bridge by Kevin M. Folliard has sparse language but is so atmospheric. Like the previous story, the couple in this tale achieve their aim and all seems well. But is it …?
How to Make Use of a Wonderful Accident by Michael D. Davis appears to be just someone mulling over a fortuitous incident, until the end when you get one of those ‘ugh’ moments.
If you find, after all, this you still need something to read, I cannot rate Coil by Ren Warom highly enough (Apex Book Company). It’s body horror, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and it’s wonderful.
First off, I’d love to throw out a HUGE thank you as we’ve had 2 new Patreons sign up so far this month. I’m going to be changing the current and next goal we’re saving to and lowering them a bit soon so this means we’re actually much closer to reaching both of them!
I’ve been thrilled to see an increase in writing on the site every week with Steph having pre-scheduled all of our Unholy Trinity and Serial Killer entrees! I hope you’ve been enjoying them as much as we have! Speaking of these, we’re currently looking for a nice influx of both drabble and Unholy Trinity pieces!
One quick request to the readers of all of the fiction on our site. Please do comment on the posts that have work that you enjoy and let the authors know!
Scrambling for Justice
With no dead body, will a jury of his peers convict Jack of a crime he may not have committed?
On the fifth day of deliberations, the locked room began to suffocate, cave in, and swirl around the twelve jurors’ heads.
The jury was deadlocked at 9-3. Mary, Little Miss Muffet, and Little Red Riding Hood stubbornly held out on a not-guilty verdict.
Peter Piper had been elected foreman, and he damn sure wasn’t going to settle for a hung jury in his first real trial. His mother had been on his case lately about being fired from his pepper-picking gig, not having any real direction in life, and squatting in her basement without paying rent. He would show her. If he could lead a jury in a serious murder trial, that was sufficient proof that his life had purpose enough to extend his stay in her basement by a few more months.
The evidence was quite clear, in his opinion. Humpty Dumpty disappeared off the castle’s surveillance wall and hadn’t been seen since last Thursday. With one tiny piece of broken shell left behind, the king was convinced that the poor fella had been scrambled, and the only suspect was Jack Be Nimble. He was the only person in the kingdom with the agility to scale that ten-foot wall. And he had made no secret of the fact that he needed a higher-protein diet to improve his jumping game.
Most of the jurors were with Peter on the guilty verdict. They had places to go, things to do. They wanted out of that jury room, and they didn’t care who had to go to jail to make that happen.
“I’m sorry,” the ever-so-contrarian and jittery Mary said, slurping on her third cup of black coffee of the morning. “Without a body, I can’t in clear conscience send poor Jack to jail for the rest of his life based just on circumstantial evidence.”
Peter gave Mary a nasty stare-down, but Mary ignored him, trying to steady her shaky hands on her mug.
Little Red Riding Hood stood up dramatically, sending her chair screeching backwards. Mother Goose’s eyes shot open from her momentary nap as she grabbed her hearing aid and growled with irritation. Red’s cape unfurled behind her as she rose to her full six-foot stature and stomped two chairs down to flank Mary, resting her brawny hands protectively on Mary’s shoulders. Red glared at Peter, with a clear don’t-mess-with-my-girl warning.
Peter cleared his throat and pretended to adjust his seat, but his protruding gut left no room to maneuver. Without making eye contact, he stammered, “Look, I think I speak for most of the people in this room when I saw that we’d all like to get back to our lives and our families.”
His mother had probably changed the locks by now.
Black Sheep smashed the butt of his cigarette into the table. There were no fewer than four “No Smoking” signs around the room, but Black disregarded them, chain-smoking at least a pack a day. No one dared to challenge him. Poor Little Bo Peep, who sat to his right, kept fanning the air in front of her to keep the fumes from wafting in her direction.
“Peter’s right!” Black growled. “Humpty took his surveillance job very seriously, and he never left his post in the seven years that I knew him. He’s dead, and Jack did it.”
Little Miss Muffet piped in quietly but firmly, “I agree with Mary. We can’t know for sure that Humpty’s dead.”
“Oh for crying out loud,” barked Tommy Tucker, pounding his fist into the table. “Don’t you dames understand anything? Humpty’s not on his wall! He’s supposed to be on that wall! If he’s not on that wall, then he’s dead!”
The bailiff knocked twice before flinging the door open. The caterer, a short, scruffy-looking wolf, rolled in a food-laden cart.
“Oh, good, here comes our lunch,” Little Boy Blue interjected, trying to defuse the tension. “I think we can all use a break.”
Peter glanced at the wall clock, frustrated that another half-day had gone by and they were no closer to a verdict. As he was trying to refocus his gaze back from the far wall, he noticed the wolf make prolonged eye contact with Red before unloading the dishes onto the table: salmon with a dill butter sauce, a veggie platter, Cobb salad, avocado egg salad, and Sriracha deviled eggs.
Eep the Mouse was the first of the famished jurors to dive in. But just as he was about to grab a deviled egg, the table began to shake violently. The hard-boiled pieces from the lunch menu shot up and coagulated into a lumpy, cold, bloody blob above the table. After a few seconds of self-assemblage, the eyes that glowered at them from the solidified mass were instantly recognizable to everyone in the room.
Mary gasped. Red ran in front of Mary to shield her from the wrath of the glob.
“How could you?” it boomed at Mary as she cowered behind Red.
“She never loved you, Humpty!” Red screamed. “She’s with me now!”
Peter shot up from his chair out of shock but didn’t quite know how to react to Humpty picking this moment to put himself back together again—if the bloody, scrambled assemblage could be called that.
“When I threatened to take photographic evidence of their illicit affair to the king if Mary didn’t come back to me, she and Red pushed me off the wall,” Humpty roared. “And they were going to have Jack take the fall for their evil act!”
“I—I wasn’t going to let Jack go to jail for this!” Mary whimpered. “That’s why I wanted to get on this jury and make sure it couldn’t reach a verdict!”
The vengeful embryo spewed his eggy innards in all directions. When the bailiff came to unlock the jury room at 5 p.m., he found a bewildered Peter splattered with bloody yolk. Nine other jurors also peered up from the carnage.
Mary and Red were gone.
Haley M. Hwang is a writer living in the Chicago area. Her career spanned working as a newspaper reporter, medical writer, and online entertainment editor. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. When she isn’t writing, she is drinking coffee, eating pastries, and thinking about her next meal.
He hit black ice and spun off into the ditch. His head thumped the windshield and he blacked out. He woke to find a face staring at him through the window.
He was relieved to see another face; this road was pretty remote. His savior spoke.
“Floyd, you screwed up the ice patch again. This one’s still alive.”
“Sorry Cletus, I’ll do it right next time,” said a voice from the road above.
“Don’t worry, meat is meat and I ain’t never been bothered about killing my own.”
Cletus lifted his knife and reached in through the window.
R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79
Our car stalls halfway across Axman’s Bridge.
Jay locks the doors.
The window fogs with the breaths of an unseen outsider.
A handprint smears the glass.
A blade whooshes.
Deep notches hack into the metal hood.
Then boot prints appear like magic in the snow, leading away.
Jay checks the dash cam. “My God. We did it! We recorded a ghost!”
The dash lights up. We proceed over the bridge, laughing, smiling.
Then Jay shouts.
We skid through the guard rail and flip into the creek.
The car is filling with icy water.
Bristly laughter echoes from shore.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.
Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com
How To Make Use of A Wonderful Accident
Some people said to me it was a wonderful accident and I have to admit it wasn’t planned so I guess they’re right. The only thing is I didn’t know what to do with it. I never thought this could happen to me…would happen to me. What would I do with it? What use was it going to serve? I am not cut out for this kind of thing. Then it came to me all at once. And now with a cord running through her and a yellow bulb screwed in tight I found the perfect use for my daughter.
Michael D. Davis
Michael D. Davis was born and raised in a small town in the heart of Iowa. Having written over thirty short stories, ranging in genre from comedy to horror from flash fiction to novella he continues in his accursed pursuit of a career in the written word.
- Taking Submissions: Gruesome Games - July 17, 2019
- Taking Submissions: Mythical Girls - July 16, 2019
- Taking Submissions: Electric Spec November Issue 2019 - July 16, 2019
- Ongoing Submissions: Mortal Realm – New Worlds (Sci-Fi) - July 15, 2019
- Taking Submissions: Trigger Warning - July 15, 2019
- Trembling With Fear 07/14/2019 - July 14, 2019
- Taking Submissions: Tell-Tale Press Short Stories - July 12, 2019
- Taking Submissions: Sci Phi Journal - July 11, 2019
- Open Novel Submissions: Mobius Books - July 11, 2019
- Taking Submissions: Longevity - July 10, 2019